Chase Elliott isn’t letting his family name dictate the direction of his racing career.
The son of former NASCAR star and 1988 Winston Cup champion Bill Elliott, 17-year old Chase is glad to take any advice his father can offer him. But when he’s behind the wheel, the focus remains on paving his own path on the track and up the racing ranks.
“I’m me, and he’s him,” the younger Elliott said. “He’s obviously had a lot of success and a phenomenal career. At the same time, I’m trying to make a name for myself.
"When it comes down to it, how I do on the race track is not his job. I’m just another racer trying to do better than everybody else and hopefully make it to the top.”
That state of mind has fared the Dawsonville native better than he could have ever imagined, especially in 2013.
Despite being among the youngest drivers in any given event he enters, Elliott is giving his more seasoned opponents a run for their money each time. A development driver for Hendrick Motorsports, Elliott has a pair of top-five finishes and another top-10 performance in three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts, proving that he can excel at a high level just two spots below the Sprint Cup.
Elliott has also made history in the Automobile Racing Club of America circuit, a common stop for aspiring stock car drivers on their ascent in the sport. He became the youngest winner in series history when he took the checkered flag on June 8 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., a place his father won five times during his Sprint Cup tenure.
“He gave me a handful of tips there,” Elliott said. “The surface is different at Pocono now than what it used to be. Dad has actually never raced on the new surface, but at the same time it’s the same race track, and you have to focus on the same things.”
The success carries over to the short track, where he still makes occasional appearances. His only start this year in the Southern Super Series yielded yet another top-five finish.
Now, just five years since he took on racing as a full-time endeavor, the Chase Elliott hype is mounting in the racing community. So much, the talk of a start in NASCAR’s second-tier Nationwide Series in 2014 has been tossed around.
Should Elliott get the opportunity, he’ll have a chance to race alongside the likes of Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth, three of the numerous current Sprint Cup superstars that still make regular Nationwide appearances.
But therein lies the hard part of being a 17-year old driver with a world of potential — fighting off the urge to think about what the future holds.
“I’ve caught myself doing that in the past and it’s gotten me in trouble,” Elliott said. “Right now, I’m just really focused on what we have going this year, and focusing on these truck races and ARCA races. If we get out there and get some results and get to victory lane in these series, I think next year will figure itself out.”
The rest of his 2013 schedule is mostly on the Truck Series, including Saturday’s race at Iowa Speedway. He’ll make a second trip to Pocono on Aug. 3.
Elliott will also make a return to Gresham Motorsports Park, in Jefferson, to compete in the Southern Super Series World Crown 300 on Aug. 10, after the event was rescheduled from its original date last Thursday.
The half-mile short track, which is managed by his uncle, Dan Elliott, won’t offer the same kind of speed he encountered at Pocono. But with the track a little over an hour from his native Dawsonville, he plans to have plenty of family there to watch him, making it more than worthwhile.
“It’s a place I’ve raced at a couple of times over the past few years,” Elliott said. “They’re pretty good to us — we’ve had some good races and bad races in between. It’s a place that’s close to home to us, and a lot of family gets to come and watch.”
No family member has more of an impact on Elliott than his father, who attends all of his races and provides his expertise on a regular basis.
Bill Elliott has competed in 828 career Sprint Cup races, including two as a part-time driver in 2012. He won the series in 1988, and recorded a season-best 11 wins in 1985. He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2007.
Some staggering achievements for his son to live up to, but nothing to provide pressure.
“Well, I mean, I think I am happy no matter what he does and will support him no matter what he does,” Bill Elliott said. “I mean, I am happy (he’s involved in racing). But it needs to be his decision and his career.”
Chase Elliott has made his decision cut and dry: he’s dedicated to racing, and it’s evident when he’s behind the wheel.
“I think it’s been decent,” he said of his career thus far. “There’s still a lot of room for improvement. We’ve had fast cars and fast trucks, we just have to have mistake-free races.”
Off the track, Elliott is still your typical 17-year old with his share of homework. He attends Kings Ridge Christian School in Alpharetta, and has learned to successfully balance his studies and extracurriculars. The school has also been forgiving when the race track calls.
“It’s definitely not easy missing days, but I’ve been fortunate to go to a school where they excuse the days when I’m absent and missed days to go race,” Elliott said. “Without that, it definitely would’ve been tough to stay in school and not have to homeschool.”
What won’t be so forgiving in the future are the opponents he’ll face in the upcoming years. As the anticipation of his career continues to grow, his competition will only become more fierce.
But that’s exactly what Elliott wants. Less hype, more racing.
“We’re all just racing. When we show up at the race track, we’re all trying to do better than the next guy and we’re all trying to win,” he said. “I don’t feel any differently than anybody else.”